Spring is here and that means we are headlong into the season of cards, flowers, new shirts and guilt that serves to commemorate parents everywhere, with Mother’s Day on one end and Father’s Day on the other.
I like attention from my children as much as anyone, but there’s a day between those days that’s infinitely more important. It won’t get commercial play, however, and will be easy to overlook.
It’s Ascension Day.
The gospel writer Mark summarizes that day like this: “So then, the Lord Jesus … was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19 RSV).
A huge truth inhabits the spare phrases “taken up,” “sat down” and “the right hand of God.” It’s a truth that echoes through the rest of Scripture like a joyful, undying song of triumph.
The writer to the Hebrews, for example, just can’t stop reminding his readers (in chapters 7-10) that Jesus is now sitting down.
The priests of the Old Testament had to offer sacrifices “day after day.” They stood, performing their ritual duties “again and again,” the “same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year.” Trouble was, this effort could not “make perfect” those who came to worship. One gets exhausted just thinking about it.
But Jesus, “holy, blameless, pure,” offered Himself “once for all” and this to secure our “eternal redemption.”
And when this single sacrifice for sins for all time was completed, He sat down. What a picture of rest!
The ascension completes the death and resurrection of Jesus, for the Son returns, bearing what He accomplished. He is seated at the place of highest honour and authority in the throne room of the King.
Ascension marks the Father’s satisfaction with what Jesus has done. It opens to the coming of the Holy Spirit in a new way as the Spirit of Christ who will “guide you into all truth” John 16:13).
It signals the Lordship of Christ, “exalted” and bestowed with “the name above every name” (Philippians 2:9), “with angels, authorities, and powers in submission to him” (1 Peter 3:22) and “head over everything for the church” (Ephesians 1:22).
In this ascended place, Jesus intercedes for us. Here too, we as believers are positioned “with Christ” (Colossians 3:1-4).
When Jesus bid His sorrowful disciples goodbye just before His death, He insisted it was to their advantage that He leave them and return to the Father. It was hard for them to grasp it, but of course He was right.
He saw “the joy set before him” (Hebrews 12:2), a joy that would some day also be theirs. This joy awaits us as well.
That’s why Ascension Day is worth celebrating.